Richard Diebenkorn wrote “Notes to himself on beginning a painting.”  They are somewhat like Gibb’s Rules.  Diebenkorn’s number one (they are similarly numbered) says, “attempt what is not certain.  Certainty may or may not come later.  It may then be a valuable delusion.”

At first I thought Diebenkorn’s rule sounded at odds with my practice.  I plan my paintings as much as practicable, following a procedure that is not radically different from what the old masters did.  Yet in essence I do “attempt the uncertain.” 

The “warp and weft” of the painting will come through the process of painting.  My preliminary drawings (which I do habitually, especially when I fall in love with a motif, repeating it over and over) these reiterations seem to open doors.  But when I go through the door, when I work on the actual painting, I find that the drawings point toward possibilities.  They do not close down, they open up.

I could compare it with walks I take.  I go back to the same places again and again.  After many occasions I come to know the terrain thoroughly.  But each visit contains its own incident and mood.  Weather changes.  Times of year, the hours of the day, the angle of the light.  Equally much I have my own internal weather and seasons:  I travel there in different moods.

Memories of past times have their effects.  It’s never the same path exactly.


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